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The American Dream? Our vision is changing

Our ideas about finance-related success and happiness have evolved over the years.

By Jul 8, 2014 2:35PM
This post comes from Gerri Detweiler at partner site on MSN MoneyWhat's your vision of the American Dream and what are you doing to achieve it? In the new 2014 American Dream Survey, we found that most are optimistic about their prospects for achieving their version of the American Dream, but some groups are definitely more confident than others.

The majority of those surveyed chose one of three responses when asked what they think the American Dream represents to them:

US currency © Steve Allen, Brand X, Corbis

  • A secure retirement at age 65 (36 percent)
  • Being debt-free (25 percent)
  • Owning a home (17 percent)

Other less popular responses included joining the "one percent," (5 percent), graduating from college (3 percent), paying off student loans (2 percent) and “other” (11 percent).

The 2014 American Dream Survey was based on a survey of 1,094 U.S. consumers, 18+, using Survey Monkey Audience, June 19 - 23, 2014. The margin of error was +/- 3 percent.

Setting new goals

When asked about their top priorities for the next year or two, priorities often included getting out of debt. For example, among all survey respondents, paying off credit card debt (19 percent) and being debt-free (18 percent) were the most popular selections. Another 6 percent chose paying off student loans and 4 percent picked paying off a mortgage. That meant that nearly half of all respondents (47 percent) say they are focused on debt reduction in the near future.

Among those with student loans, the most often identified priority was -- no surprise -- paying off student loan debt (24 percent). But the top focus for those age 18-29 was a major purchase (27 percent) followed by paying off student debt (19 percent) and buying a home (17 percent). Among renters, the second choice was to buy a home (18 percent), which was a slightly less popular choice for this group than being debt-free (21 percent).

Homeownership and beyond

There were major differences between the views of homeowners and renters when it comes to the American Dream. Surprisingly, homeowners were the group least likely to choose home ownership when asked for their definition of the American Dream. Instead, they were most likely to choose retiring financially secure at age 65 (41 percent). But they were also the group most likely to say they have already achieved the dream, with 24 percent saying they are there. It may be that having achieved their goal of owning a home they have set their sights on a new goal.

Homeowners were also the group most confident about their ability to become debt-free in their lifetimes, with 82 percent saying it was somewhat or very likely that they will achieve that milestone.

However, not all of them are there yet. When asked to name their top financial priority for the next one to two years, paying off credit card debt came in first at 21 percent, with 15 percent choosing the response "be debt-free."

The foundation for the dream

The majority of respondents chose goals that tie into good credit habits. Paying off debt, for example, may require a good credit score in order to refinance or consolidate debt. And getting a mortgage to buy a home will be much easier with strong credit.

For those reasons, regularly checking your credit reports and monitoring your credit scores (which you can get, updated monthly for free, through are often the first steps toward achieving the American Dream.

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Jul 8, 2014 5:26PM
"Our" vision is changing?? Really, Gerri? More media bulls**t with some icing spread over it to make it look the way "they" want it to look... and the way they want you to look at it. Personal finances and long-term financial stability are being purposefully crippled. So exactly whose vision is it, Gerri? The American dream is still the same. That hasn't changed. The ability to reach it, and then actually keep it, if by chance it's ever reached, has very much been altered... very purposefully altered.
Jul 8, 2014 9:07PM
NO...our vision is being changed for us weather we like it or not.........thanks for nothing progressive liberal pieces of sh!t.
Jul 9, 2014 1:22PM
Here is a comment with no political spin. The American dream should be about being happy. Happiness has far less to do with what you have, but how you live with what you have. We talk a lot about what it takes to "make it", but that is different for everyone. 

The American dream is being able to go to sleep at night feeling like you have all your needs met. Honestly, a family is the American dream. When you die, it won't matter how much money you had, what car you had, where you lived. What will matter is how your time was spent with those that you love, and if they loved you in return. 
Jul 9, 2014 10:13AM
This is our dilemma--we have no leaders with character, ethics, and integrity. All elections are about keeping power and making back room deals--nothing focuses on national priorities or national security anymore. To have someone like Obama in the White House that is so weak, lazy, inept, incompetent and malevolent our country can't survive. Having the best CIA, NSA, and Homeland Security can't save a country that has a lawless moron for President.

America isn’t what it used to be. As a graduate student in my mid-twenties in NYC, here is what I know: I plan to graduate, get a decent job (thankfully my field is not in the toilet like so many others), live in a small house, minimize the number of possessions I have, pay off my student loan debt, save as much as I can for my children's education and my retirement, pay my $350/month health insurance premiums and my $23/month auto insurance premiums (thanks Insurance Panda). I won't have the big suburban house, the fancy cars, the extraneous material possessions. Gifts will be experiences with loved ones, not things. Vacations will be camping, not at resorts. 

My generation is looking at a very different reality than we were promised by our parents. In some ways, it's a disappointment. In other ways, it seems a lot healthier than a life of excess.
Jul 9, 2014 12:59PM
My dream for this country...

No government sponsored aid to foreign countries. No prohibiting individual aid to a foreign country unless the country is an enemy.

            No tax on wages. No tax on investments. Tax on sales only.

            No aid to anyone who is not a citizen. No aid to anyone who is a drug addict or alcoholic, other than treatment for their lack of will power.

            All costs for airports (security, flight control) are to be paid by ticket fees and fuel surcharges.

            All costs for road construction, maintenance and public transit to be paid by gas taxes, rider fares or tolls.

            To be a citizen in full standing you must be born of two citizens or be born of one citizen on United States land. Being born of one citizen in a foreign country or being born in this country of two non-citizens would give you the right of dual citizenship on your 18th birthday; you would not be entitled to any benefits you had not earned.

            No elected or hired employee of the government would be exempt from any law.

            All government employees would be part of SS. No pensions. Including judges, congress and the president.

            The president would be elected for one, six-year term. Could run again in six years after leaving office.

            The senate would be elected for one, six-year term. Could run again in six years after leaving office.

The congress would be elected for one, three-year term. Could run again in three years after leaving office.

No lawyer could run for congress or for president. It is a violation of the separation of powers. Lawyers could only be judges.

            No federal government employee would be allowed to belong to a union.

            Stop all visas for any reason from countries that are hostile to the United States, including Russia and China, and stop visas to anyone who is a citizen of that country.

            All students on education visas would be required to check in and update or confirm their addresses twice a year.

Anyone here on a work visa would be required to check in and update or confirm their addresses once a year.

            All embassies in hostile countries to have marine security.

            Suspend all immigration until we have our system in order. Allow states to activate the National Guard to patrol the borders.

            The National Guard could only be deployed in the United States. Each state would be in control of its own units and only the state could have the power to call them up for duty.


Jul 9, 2014 12:56PM

It didn’t happen all at once, but the dream that was the United States of America, the Great Republic, has died. Other countries hostile to the idea of true freedom didn’t cause it; it wasn’t caused by a radical religious organization. The downfall of the United States was all from within its own borders, by its own people. The people, for whom others have died, have allowed the country to die a slow death. The me too, me first attitude that started many years ago, along with the idea that all are entitled to the fruits of others hard work, has allowed this country to bleed to death. When the British raised the tax on tea, our forefathers should have just shut up and paid the tax. Almost 240 years later, what has changed? Thousands have died for absolutely nothing.

Jul 9, 2014 8:24AM
Obama is killing the American dream.  It's his goal.  He envisions a country with a huge mass of poor, government-dependent serfs ruled by Ivy League elite socialists like himself.
Jul 9, 2014 4:20PM
My dream is to cash out before the "takers", i.e. smart people, i.e. inside traders, dump the market.

And run.....far, far away.

Jul 9, 2014 1:48AM
One of the biggest Reason the American Dream is being Destroyed is because of Bogus Credit Reports which are being used to deny folks Jobs all the way to overcharging folks due to income inequality. To begin the process of restoring the Ability of more to reach the American Dream, we can start there. That along with paying folks a livable WAGE. We have Record Global Wealth while at the same time Record Global Poverty.  seems far too many folks are preaching from the Bible and not living from it.
Jul 9, 2014 2:49PM
it used to be you got a secure retirement at age 65 because everyone was being debt-free and they could afford owning a home. 
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